Barnaby's Family Inn on Touhy (Des Plaines)
The back story to our history with Barnaby's is that both of Nat's parents are graduates of Notre Dame. We were headed there for a football game a few falls ago and asked her folks where a good post-game bite to eat could be had. Both of them volunteered the same thing: Barnaby's.
Turns out, it is an old pizza place a few miles from the stadium. They told us to try the sausage pizza. We went in with little expectations aside from satisfying our hunger.
Little did we know that we'd start a personal pizza revolution in our own house. This place was that good.
The Barnaby's we went to in Des Plaines is set up exactly like the one in South Bend (and I imagine every other one in the country). There's only 7 left in the country - mostly in northern Illinois.
What you get at Barnaby's is good pizza, no pretense, and a trip back to pizza parlors before goat cheese and caprese salads. (not that I don't like both of those things!) There is no wait staff. You walk up to a counter order your pizza and take your number. Then you shuffle to the left to the bar and order your pitcher of beer - which comes with smallish frosted mugs. You then go grab a seat in one of their small booths - or if you are a big party, grab one of the "center" booths where there are 2 booths attached to each other with a small divider in between. After 15 or 20 minutes (depending on how busy it is), you hear your number called our and get your pie. Large pizzas are $14 each, small are $10. Priced right. And...taste right. I'll leave the description of the textures and flavors to someone else, instead focusing on the atmosphere and the real reason to go there for your next night out.
They haven't changed a thing in either of the Barnaby's since probably 1987. The signs, the booths, the wall decor. Take a look at these photos. They're from the 70's, but trust me: things have NOT changed. This is a pizza parlor - with the requisite little league baseball sponsorship and everything. Now that we have kids, I have a more attuned eye for where/when we should be bringing her and I doubt that she'd be unwelcome anytime/any day at Barnaby's. In fact, the babe was wailing away most of the night and due to the noise and our proximity (we chose a back corner) to other diners not one person looked sideways at us.
We like old things, and Barnaby's fits that bill. It is styled like a Bavarian lodge and feels like someplace that time forgot - in a good way. That's worth the price of admission alone. But the pizza really is good - and not having a waiter/waitress is nice too!
The Barnaby's story is interesting in that they were bought out by Bally's in 1981. Yup, the casino folks. They also were a big pinball/arcade company and had plans to trick each of the Barnaby's out with an arcade. Guess it didn't work. Lots of them closed around the midwest - each leaving behind a legacy of happy family outings, I'm certain.
If you want to step back in time, taste some delicious pizza and have a great time, please go to Barnaby's. In the suburbs, there's on in Schaumburg, Northbrook, Niles, Arlington Heights and Des Plaines.
One favor though if you do decide to go: Please email or call me. We'll go with you!